Woodland Wonderland//Amanda Bivens Shares the Lovely Details of her Backyard Wedding

"I love romance. I'm a sucker for it. I love it so much. It's pathetic."- Drew Barrymore

Spring is in full force my dears. It’s that time of the year where guys are getting down on one knee and asking that four-word question to the loves of their lives. Yep, wedding season is here too and being the hopeless romantic that I am, I have been thinking about the most gorgeous wedding I have ever witnessed. It was just so special and personal and every detail was not forgotten. One of my good friends finally said yes to the man of her dreams and I was thrilled when Amanda accepted my invite to showcase the magical evening here on the blog. 

These two opted for a backyard wedding and the location they chose has such special meaning. They had just bought a home on some land in a suburb of Tulsa. She has always loved the outdoors and nature so none of were surprised. The wedding would take place in the backyard of their new home where they would build the sweetest memories with one another and Scarlett, Amanda's daughter. It just made perfect sense to "bless" the home with family and friends and so much love under the stars. They would fill the back yard with rows of  hay bales instead of pews, vintage furniture, and tables for the reception dinner and some other details creating the loveliest romantic night. 

It’s amazing how clearly personalities can shine through wedding photos–a few snaps of one day that can paint a picture of a whole love story.  They wanted their backyard wedding to be a special gathering from the minute the guests got there to the minute they left, which they accomplished with playful details–BBQ on fancy china, a tub of brews and wine, and late-night s’mores roasted over a fire–all captured by Ernesto H. Photography

Thrilled for you to learn more about this beautiful love story and get your own DIY backyard wedding ideas. Amanda and her family and friends should really look into event planning. I would hire them a heartbeat! Amanda is the one who made my clouds for my La La Land themed party everyone was inquiring about. Just FYI! Anyway..she is sharing some amazing tips you brides-to-be so bookmark this!


-Tell us about the proposal. We want all the details?!

Well, we went to Louisiana to see John's family. While we were there we spent most our time fishing. For a couple days we had been setting up YoYo's (a type of fishing contraption you hang from tree branches) -you check them every few hours or so to make sure there is a fish, or if your bait is still in tact. So it starts to drizzle and John asks me to go check the lines to see if we had caught anything. I happened to be wearing a little sun dress at the time and it was a little chilly, so his sweet momma gave me some valor pants and a sweatshirt to go out in. I topped the outfit off with his dads mud boots. So there I am clomping around in the absolute most ridiculous garb. In the rain.

We get out on the John boat in the Bayou, and start checking the lines. Late that night we had moved a YoYo that was not ours to a better spot thinking it was probably someones that they had forgot about. So we get to the area where we had our lines out, and I spot a plastic ziplock bag with something that looked like a ticket from a game warden. So I am freaking out thinking we got a ticket for moving someones YoYo! As we get closer, I grab it and see what it really is. It's a picture of a Tree that says JB + AB. For a second I was so confused. THEN IT DAWNED ON ME!

A few months earlier we had gone on a Extreme 12 mile Wilderness hike in The Ouachita Mountains. John had carved our initials JB + AP into a tree, and he told me that one day we would have to come back and find it and turn my P into a B. So I turn around and I see the most handsome man on one knee... in a boat. Im just glad we didn't fall out! It is all such a blur from there, besides the most perfect custom Turquoise and Diamond ring in all the land! Of course, I said YES!!!! 

-What was your favorite part of the wedding planning?

I would have to say the adventure of going to find the reclaimed wood. Once I started pulling out the different pieces it just spoke to me and I envisioned all the possibilities. The ideas poured in. My dad thought I was crazy picking up a bunch of "rotten wood". After we got started he really got into it and loved it.

-What was the most challenging part of the wedding planning?

Time! Most people plan their weddings for years. Of course I had been making a idea board for a while knowing Mr. Bivens was Mr. Right. But just getting everything executed was a daunting task. Finding the perfect cake to fit my vision "Floured Roses" was the perfect fit, and got me right in even though it was only weeks before the wedding that I ordered it. My bouquets were done by my friend  Jenny Rausch with Anthousai Florals.  They were beautiful! 

The rest of the flowers at the wedding were all done by my friends and bridesmaids. They know me well enough and saw all my ideas before hand. It was executed perfectly! A huge shout out to my close friend Nikolette Griffith. Without her I don't know what I would have done. She practically put all of my decor together. She and I had the same vision. We called it my "Woodland Wonderland". My mom is a very talented organizer. She thinks of everything. She is the one who made everything happen 100% . She is incredible. She did most of the planning shopping and ordering. She and Nikolette should really start a business in wedding planning.

- How would you describe the style of your wedding?

I wanted it to reflect us as a couple. Natural, comfortable, somewhat rustic, and colorful.  I wanted a lot of greenery, a woodland feel. I incorporated a lot of moss, fresh Eucalyptus, and succulents. We had antlers EVERYWHERE so that definitely represented him and his family. It was Fall so there was a lot of  fall colors and plants. I wanted to incorporate a Autumn vibe so I got a bunch of straw bales. We used them for the seating, some at tables, a section of the ceremony, and then my favorite, the straw couches! It really brought in a lot of warmth. We both also drink a lot of coffee, so it was fun to have coffee bags covering the bales of straw! Thanks to Chip of Topeca Coffee who hooked me up. Our wedding was in no way traditional. no schedule. Just relaxed and enjoyable.

-Did you and your hubby want the same things or did someone compromise a bit?

Everything about our wedding I would say is what we both wanted. It was completely us in every way. We have a very similar mindset. I wanted to represent both of us as much as possible. Johns only request was that we didn't have to be on a schedule. He wanted to be able to enjoy himself, so thats what we did! We went with the flow. The most important thing to us was the music. We love Tulsa's local music, and when we imagined our wedding we couldn't pick who we could live without....so we had Paul Benjamin Band, Jacob Tovar, and Wink Burcham. The whole gang was there. It was incredible! Everyone was dancing.

-Had you always envisioned a backyard wedding? And for someone on a budget can they totally achieve this?

I have always envisioned an outdoor wedding and when we found the perfect house we knew that it was the perfect venue! What better? A wedding and house warming at the same time! Since we bought 5 acres, we had plenty of room. The stressor was more that we closed on the house at the end of July, and the wedding date we wanted was the end of October! 3 MONTHS! So we got to work right away.

We were definitely on a budget, but instead of spending a large sum of money on a venue, we invested in our home. That is something that just keeps on giving! I relive my wedding everyday. 

-Go out and buy lots of stuff or use things you have around?

A lot of what I used was reclaimed wood that I scavenged at a coworkers ranch! My centerpieces were old fence posts that I filled with Succulents. I took some of the wood and made the bar myself with my neighbor Ronnie's help. Not to toot my own horn, but that was one of my favorite pieces. I used intact fencing to hide all of my extra wood and random ladders and such at the entry. My dad built the old looking barn door that was the ceremonies backdrop, and my dad and I built the actual long tables ourselves. I am so lucky to have such a brilliant builder of a dad. The yard is on a slope, so all the tables were actually made to the exact part of the yard, you would have never known! I borrowed the wagon looking table where the BBQ was stationed from my wonderful neighbors, and the old drafting table that held my cake was mine. My husband is a hunter, so we had a lot of the skulls and antler sheds laying around. My sister in Law Krista was a huge help with that as well as I borrowed a ton of hers! 

We did do some renting but not much at all! We had some round tables and chairs.  We used the chairs for the ceremony and then moved them to the tables to open up the dance floor! We also rented some glassware, plates, silverware, table clothes, and napkins. That was about it.

- How do you prepare your home for a backyard wedding?! 

You would not believe the work we got done! We cut down and burned trees, took down an old tree house, cleaned the yard, bagged leaves, pulled vines for days, mulched, landscaped, potted plants, built a seating area in a hole in the deck, re-stained the deck, etc. It was a LOT! And not to mention my sweet uncle who is a 3rd generation stone mason made the most beautiful patio and stairs for me to walk down. After all the prep on the yard, then you get to all the things that make your wedding work!

1:  Power is a must! 

Make sure to have an extra power source like a power board, or a generator. Since mine was a evening wedding you need a lot of lighting! You don't want to lose power, or run all your electric off of one outlet! My dads good friend let us use his electrical board that had something like 20 electric plugs. It was not pretty so we nailed together some reclaimed wood and hid it and made it look like a decorated area.

2:  Create your lighting design  

Hang all the lighting a few nights before so you can test it out. I found some 100ft bistro lights on Amazon at a killer price. I had a ton of LED flood lights that one of our best friends and groomsman in the wedding Ray Hornak helped me with. He is a lighting rep, and he blew me away with his ideas. He showed me different ways to hang them in the trees, and down low so the whole tree would be illuminated. The lighting was what truly brought the event together. I would suggest buying the battery powered candles for most of your lanterns and such. The timer option is amazing. You set them the night or a few nights before the desired time. That is one of last things you want to worry about on the wedding day. I had some old Chandeliers that we painted and hung them in the trees. The candles I bought for those actually came with a remote! I know they aren't as pretty as real candles, but they don't blow out!

3:  Don't forget the Potty!

Your wedding is at your home! You want to relax, This is your day and people (some people you don't know) are at your house! You want to direct traffic away from your house, and keep it in the designated party area! Rent some Porta Pottys! We got ours from "Septics-R-Us" and they were literally brand new! The hand washing station was a must as well! I was ok with elderly people coming in to be more comfortable, but that was about it. I paid to accommodate right!?!

4.Make sure your insurance is in place

Make sure to call your home insurance and protect yourself from any mishaps. You can buy an event or wedding insurance policy to cover wedding activities, as well as liquor liabilities. You are going to be flawless on your wedding day, but you can't be too sure about other people. Protect yourself, others, and of course your home investment! 

5. The uninvited guest

I am not talking about that family member you didn't invite, Im talking about mosquitoes! There are so many cute ideas on Pinterest for ways to have bug spray displayed upon arrival. If you are familiar to deet like my husband and I, you know that means snagging a kiss from your love leaves a horrible taste in your mouth! The numbness can be avoided! Have your yard sprayed with a pesticide a few days before your ceremony. (and yes, we still have mosquitoes in Oklahoma during the fall season)

-BBQ on fancy plates? Love. IS this something you had previously envisioned?

Why can't BBQ always be fancy? I love good BBQ and it is messy! The last thing I want is a plate that can't hold up the amount of food my family can eat! That poses a problem when you have more food on the ground than in peoples belly! I love the idea of keeping my wedding my day. I just didn't want to look at paper plates! Fancy it is!

-Was it everything you planned? Any surprises? Anything you would do different?

I think the most stressful part for me was the getting ready. I went to a makeup counter to get my makeup done. Of course they assigned me to the new girl! Ugh, I cried. The manager took over, and it all worked out fine. I would totally suggest having a makeup artist come to my house, Sadly since I stared the planning process so late making sure we closed on the house in time, everyone was already booked! So then we get to the house, ready to put on my dress, and the sticky bra didn't stick! So my sister sent her niece Devin to Walmart to grab some white duck tape! Yes. I duck taped my boobs in place.

Next was pictures! I went to a field by my house with the most incredible barn. So I took off in my dress.. Frolicking around.. Then I look down, STICKERS EVERYWHERE! Hundreds.. So my lovely bridesmaids helped me pick them all out of my perfect Hailey Paige gown, which made us late of course. I think the thing that was the worst part is I didn't get any pictures of John and I except the ceremony. The sun was setting.. 

I can't thank all of my family and friends enough for all of the help. If only I could show you a before and after picture of my yard. Words don't do it justice! I wouldn't change a single thing. Once it started, I relaxed and went with it! Im just glad I had my girl Liz Pounds following me around with a plate of food forcing me to eat! 

In a wedding planned in 3 months I think it was the absolute most perfect night. Maybe don't buy a house and have it in the backyard 3 months later? But for me, I got my yard wishlist knocked out and I am loving the benefits!

- Fondest memory of your husband?

I would have to say anytime my daughter Scarlett and him are together. He is a great "Daddy John." They are best friends. My heart melts when I see him play with her, because before him she was my whole life. He has really stepped into his role so well. He really completes us as a family. They hunt together, shoot guns together, she loves to camp and hike with us. He takes her to the park when I have to work, takes her to ride her bike, takes her fishing. And at the end of the day she is wanting him to cuddle with her. He doesn't just give me security. He is her security.

-What do you two do best together?

We are the happiest when we are disconnected from the world. We take a lot of jump trips to his families little self sustaining cabin and there is no cell service there. It is the BEST! Road trips to hike and/or camp. Just enjoying God's beautiful creation. That is really why we chose to move out of town and buy acreage. We are at our best in our element:: the great outdoors! We cook out a lot, and turn on the string lights from our wedding, We are our best selves in our element.

-If you could relive a date with him what would it be?

I would have to say without a doubt our very first real date. We went camping of course.....a road trip to Natural Falls State park in the Ozark Mountains! We started our day off with a great hike to see the falls. We found ourselves under the waterfalls and stopped and ate lunch and I made hand crafted Mojitos. After the hike, we drove around for about an hour to find the most perfect spot to camp. Before I ever met him I already was an avid camper, so I have all of the best glamping gear you could imagine. So I hung about 20 little lanterns in the trees, had the best music blaring, conversations that wouldn't stop, the best food made over the fire, and maybe one too many Old Fashions. We ended the night with some homemade Cast iron skillet cobbler topped with vanilla greek yogurt. With full belly's we fell asleep talking in the hammock and when the sun started shining we took a quick snooze in the tent. We woke up, made breakfast burritos and then took a dip in the river. We were already in love. It was magic.

- A quote you both love?

One of the things that brought us together in our Faith in God. There is a scripture we both love and it is actually on a gift we received my brother in law made for us on a vintage window. "Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. -Ruth 1:15. 

- A song that makes you think of your husband? 

"Feels Like Home" by Chantal Kreviazuk. When I was younger and a competitive dancer, I had a solo to this song. I always listened to the words and tried imagining a love like that. Now, I can connect even more to it. I found my home in him.  

-Advice to the couple throwing a backyard wedding?

You won't regret it! With being on a budget it doubled for me! We invested in ourselves for our day, but we invested for something that keeps on growing, and getting better with age. Just like our marriage! It may be a lot of work but it is something you can be extra proud of. You will finally get all those little things you want done you've been talking about. Don't let it be work! Working in the yard is fun! And when the evening comes you get to RELAX!

-And newlyweds...what do you want us to know about marriage?!

We have the unconventional marriage. I have a 4 year old. I would say that is a huge struggle at first considering we are all still learning what works for us and how we communicate with one another. How to put my husband FIRST before my daughter. That I have to respect him, ask his opinion. Value his input.  Im not saying that my daughter is on the back burner whatsoever. We are very involved parents. But I truly believe that showing your child that your husband comes first teaches them that they have a stable situation. That their parents are happy and love each other. Security is everything. And my daughter has a great example of how a woman should be treated.

Aside from my daughter, I would say be present. Take time for one another and don't forget to date one another! We are home bodies, we do not go out often at all, but we love to take jump trips on a whim. That is our style of dating. It works for us. Say I LOVE YOU and kiss before bed every night! Even if your are irritated at one another. Never say things to make the other feel insignificant. This is your partner for LIFE. Give them all of your love. Be positive and uplifting and supportive! When you disrespect one another you are also hurting yourself. Just don't do it. If you want it to work why be ugly? In marriage there is only room for love, so let go and love.

- Favorite gift you received? 

Well first off my wedding. My parents went above and beyond to make it the most memorable special day. Part of that gift was the stone patio my uncle built.  My parents funded it, but the fact that my uncle who I absolutely adore hand cut the stone on the patio. That is priceless. 

-Most interesting gift you received?

I am still waiting to receive it! My wonderful Aunt Kathy, (Nanny) has a box for me. My grandmother passed away years ago. Every one of the grandchildren receives a box of her belongings when they get married. I can't wait to open this box. My grandmother was a huge part of my life. Obviously she could not make my wedding. So this is a sweet way that she can bless my marriage. My grandfather on the other hand at 98 years young made the wedding. I just lost him to the Lord this past month. I am so lucky he stuck around for my big day!

Seriously, such a memorable evening! You could feel the love all around from every which direction. 

and I didn't catch the bouquet.....I tried....

More on that later !!!